The Day of Judgment. Extracted from a Sermon by Hugh Latimer, Bishop of Worcester, and Martyr, 1555. (1)

As we die so we shall rise again. If we die in the state of damnation, we shall rise in that same state. Again, if we die in the state of salvation, we shall rise again in that state, and come to everlasting felicity, both of soul and body. For if we die now in the state of salvation, then at the last general day of judgment we shall hear this joyful sentence, proceeding out of the mouth of our Saviour Christ, when he will say, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess that kingdom which is prepared for you from the beginning of the world." (Matt. xxv.) And though we have much misery here in this world, though it goeth hard with us, though we must bite on the bridle, yet for all that, we must be content, for we shall be sure of our deliverance, we shall be sure that our salvation is not far off. And no doubt they that will wrestle with sin, and strive and fight with it, shall have the assistance of God; he will help them, he will not forsake them, he will strengthen them, so that they shall be able to live uprightly; and though they shall not be able to fulfil the law of God to the uttermost, yet for all that, God will take their doings in good part, for Christ his Son's sake, in whose name all faithful people do their good works, and so for his sake they are acceptable unto God, and in the end they shall be delivered out of all miseries and troubles, and come to the bliss of everlasting joy and felicity.

I pray God, that we may be of the number of those who shall hear this joyful and most comfortable voice of Christ our Saviour, when he will say, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess the kingdom which is prepared for you before the foundation of the world was laid." There are a great number amongst the Christian people, who in the Lord's prayer, when they pray, "Thy kingdom come," pray that this day may come; but yet, for all that, they are drowned in the world, they say the words with their lips, but they cannot tell what is the meaning of it; they speak it only with their tongue: which saying indeed is to no purpose. But the man or woman that saith these words, "Thy kingdom come," with a faithful heart, no doubt he or she desires in very deed that God will come to judgment, and amend all things in this world, to pull down satan that old serpent under our feet.

But there are a great number of us who are not ready. Some have lived in this world fifty years, some sixty, but yet for all that they are not prepared for his coming; they ever think he will not come yet. But I tell you, that though his general coming be not yet, yet for all that he will come one day, and take us out of this world: and, no doubt, as he finds us, so we shall have; if he find us ready, and in the state of salvation, no doubt we shall be saved for ever, world without end. But, if he find us in the state of damnation, we shall be damned, world without end, there is no remedy after we are once past this world; no penance will help then, nor anything that man is able to do for us.

"And then shall they see the Son of man come in a cloud with power and great glory." St. Paul to the Thessalonians setteth out the coming of Christ and our resurrection; but he speaks in the same place only of the rising of the good and faithful that shall be saved. But the Holy Scripture in other places witnesses, that the wicked shall rise too, and shall receive their sentence from Christ, and so go to hell, where they shall be punished world without end. Now, St. Paul's words are these, "This say we unto you in the word of the Lord: that we which shall live and shall remain to the coming of the Lord, shall not come before them which sleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, and the voice of the archangel and the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall arise first: then we which shall live, even we which shall remain, shall be caught up with them also in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord; wherefore comfort one another with these words." 1 Thess. iv.

By these words of St. Paul it appears, that they which died in the beginning of the world shall be by Christ as soon saved, as they who shall be alive here at the time of his coming. I would have you to note well the manner of speaking which St. Paul uses; he speaks as if the last day should have come in his time. Now, when St. Paul thought that this day should have come in his time, how much more shall we think that it shall be in our time? For no doubt it will come, and it is not long thereunto; as it appears by all the scriptures which make mention of this day; it will come, but it shall come suddenly, unawares, as a thief in the night. For a thief when he intends a robbery, to rob a man's house, to break up his chests, and take away his goods, gives him not warning, he lets not the good man of the house know at what time he intends to come, but rather he intends to spy such a time, that no man shall be aware of him. So, no doubt, this last day will come one day suddenly upon our heads, before we are aware of it; like as the fire fell down from heaven upon the people of Sodom when unlooked for; they thought that all things were well, therefore they took their pleasures, till the time when fire fell down from heaven and burned them up all, with all their substance and goods.

"And he showed them a similitude, Behold the fig-tree and all the trees, when they shoot forth their buds, ye see and know of your ownselves that summer is then near at hand." So when you see the tokens which shall go before this fearful day, it is time to make ready. But here a man might ask a question, saying, I pray you wherein standeth this preparation? How shall I make ready? About this there has been great strife, for there have been an infinite number, and there are some yet at this time, who think that this readiness standeth in masses, in setting up candles, in going of pilgrimage; and in such things, they thought to be made ready for that day, and so to be made worthy to stand before the Son of man, that is, before our Saviour Christ. But I tell you, this was not the right way to make ready. Christ our Saviour showeth us how we shall make ourselves ready, saying, "Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcome with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this world, and so this day come upon you unawares; for as a snare shall it come upon all them that dwell upon the face of the whole world."

"Watch and pray:" as if he had said, Be ye ever in readiness, lest you be taken unawares. But those sluggards who spend their time vainly in eating and drinking, and sleeping, please not God, for he commands us to watch, to be mindful, to take heed to ourselves, lest the devil, or the world, or our own flesh, get the victory over us. We are allowed to take our natural sleep, for it is as necessary for us as meat and drink, and we please God as well in that, as we please him when we take our food. But we must take heed, that we do it according as he has appointed us; for like as he has not ordained meat and drink that we should play the glutton with it, so likewise sleep is not ordained that we should give ourselves to sluggishness, or over-much sleeping; for no doubt when we do so, we shall displease God most highly. For Christ saith not in vain, "Watch and pray." He would have us to be watchers, to have at all times in remembrance his coming, and to give ourselves to prayer, that we may be able to stand before him at this great and fearful day. Meaning, that we should not trust in ourselves but call unto God, saying, "Lord God Almighty, thou hast promised to come and judge the quick and the dead; we beseech thee give us thy grace and Holy Ghost, that we may live according unto thy holy commandments, that when thou comest, thou have not cause to bestow thy fearful anger, but rather thy lovingkindness and mercy upon us."

So likewise when we go to bed, we should desire God that we sleep not the sleep of sin and wickedness, but rather that we may leave them, and follow his will and pleasure; that we be not led with the desires of this wicked world. Such an earnest mind we should have towards him, so watchful we should be. For I tell you it is not a trifling matter, it is not a money matter: for our eternal salvation and our damnation hang upon it. Our nature is to do all that is possible for us to get silver and gold; how much more then should we endeavour to make ourselves ready towards this day, when it shall not be a money matter, but a soul matter, for at that day it will appear most manifestly who they are that shall enjoy everlasting life, and who shall be thrust into hell. Now as long as we are in this world, we have all one baptism, we go all to the Lord's Supper, we all bear the name of Christians, but then it will appear who are the right Christians; and again, who are the hypocrites or dissemblers.

Well, I pray God grant us such hearts, that we may look diligently about us, and make ready against his fearful and joyful coming -- fearful to them that delight in sin and wickedness, and will not leave them; and joyful unto those who repent, forsake their sins, and believe in him; who, no doubt, will come in great honour and glory, and will make all his faithful like unto him, and will say unto them that are chosen to everlasting life, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess that kingdom which is prepared for you from the beginning of the world." But, to the wicked who will not live according unto his will and pleasure, but follow their own appetites, he will say, "Go, ye cursed, into everlasting fire." O what a horrible thing will this be, to depart from him who is the fountain of all goodness and mercy, without whom is no consolation, comfort, nor rest, but eternal sorrow and everlasting death! For God's sake I require you let us consider this, that we may be amongst those who shall hear, "Come to me;" that we may be amongst those who shall enjoy eternal life.

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